Osbourn 5, Osbourn Park 1

It would be inaccurate, of course, to refer to two first-inning blasts as game-ending home runs, but that's sort of what it felt like to Osbourn juniors Brittany Lansdowne and Cristi Ecks on Tuesday afternoon in their 5-1 win over Osbourn Park in the Cedar Run District semifinals at Potomac.

It's not that the Yellow Jackets would be incapable of coming back -- in fact, they continually threatened to score -- it's just that when the No. 6 Eagles grabbed a 4-0 lead five batters into a must-win game, it brought a sense of relief felt from one end of the dugout to the other.

As shots off the bats of Lansdowne and Ecks disappeared over the fence in center field, so did the Eagles' fears of falling short of the Northwestern Region tournament and missing a chance at a third straight state tournament berth.

"[The homers] just set the tone for the whole game," said Ecks, who struck out 10, walked one and received flawless defensive support. "We did not want to be the team on the other side all going on the bus thinking, 'I wish we would have done that; I wish we would have done this.' I'm glad we don't have to do that. That makes everything so much easier."

Osbourn and regular season champion Stonewall, a 10-0 victor over Potomac in the other semi, will meet at 4 p.m. today at Potomac in the district championship. The winner will host the Cardinal District runner-up in a region semifinal Monday. The loser will play at the Cardinal champion that day.

The offense came early for Osbourn: Sophomore Jamie Jansen led off the game with a full-count single and took second when freshman Robin Botkin reached on a mishandled sacrifice bunt. Lansdowne then drove an 0-2 pitch over the fence in center. One out later, Ecks did likewise to make it 4-0.

"Once you get down by four -- whew!" Osbourn Park Coach Willie Lemay said. "That's bad. . . . It takes away the bunt, takes away the slap, some of the things you want to do."

The Eagles (17-3) made it 5-1 in the fourth off sophomore pitcher Alysha Demarest when senior Laura Hundemer singled, took second on a sacrifice and scored on a single by junior Julianne Sudduth.

For the game, seven Osbourn players had at least one hit -- Ecks had three and Hundemer two -- and the two batters who did not reach base laid down successful sacrifices to aid the cause. Demarest had shut out Osbourn earlier this season.

"[This win] was a big relief," Lansdowne said. "My heart was just pounding today. It was a little shaky . . . when we lost two games back to back [in April], but I knew that we were going to come out" all right.

Osbourn Park, which lost, 8-0, to Stonewall on Monday in the second of two playbacks to break a three-way tie for the regular season district title, got at least one runner aboard in every inning but one Tuesday. Two Yellow Jackets reached base in each of the last two innings; they were among the team's eight stranded base runners.

Osbourn Park scored its only run in the bottom of the third when senior Erin Myers singled with two outs and raced home on a double to right-center by sophomore Kat Beauvais. Myers, Beauvais and sophomore Brittney Lyddane each had two hits.

Coming into the season, Osbourn Park was considered a dark horse in terms of contending for a regional berth. But Lemay predicted his team would be a factor, and early wins over Stonewall and Osbourn bore that out.

And as it turned out, it was not the Yellow Jackets (13-9) who forced a three-way tie for the district lead; it was Stonewall and Osbourn who forced it by beating Osbourn Park the second time through the district schedule. Until that point, the Yellow Jackets were the team being chased.

Osbourn Park will lose three seniors -- shortstop Tamara Poles, center fielder Erin Myers and left fielder Ashley Demarest.

"I think we're a little ahead of schedule, I really do," said Lemay, who was particularly pleased with the pitching job turned in by Alysha Demarest this spring. "[The season] meant a lot to them -- the playback and everything. But they're like any quality ballplayers -- a 'W' means more than anything else to them. They're winners."

Brittany Lansdowne, left, and teammate Cristi Ecks, above, each hit home runs in the first inning for Osbourn in its 5-1 victory over Osbourn Park in the Cedar Run semifinals. As a pitcher, Ecks fanned 10 and walked one.Jamie Jansen crosses the plate to score the first run of the game for sixth-ranked Osbourn.